By Nandita Bipin
Cloning is the process of producing identical copies of organisms or biological identities. The copied entity has the same genetic material of the original one, and in cases of true clones, they share identical DNA in both the nuclei and the mitochondria. Cloning technology has been used by scientists to produce identical copies of a wide range of material such as organs, tissues, genes, and most remarkably organisms.
The cloning of organisms has sparked much discussion in the science community regarding the adverse health complications that can occur to cloned organisms, ethical or moral issues, and the question of bringing back extinct species that could make a real-life Jurassic Park a reality in our future.
Scientific Process of Cloning
There are multiple methods for cloning; one way is by the nuclear transfer of somatic cells (non sex cells). This process begins by removing the chromosomes from an egg cell to create an enucleated egg, which is an egg cell with its nucleus removed. Then, the removed chromosomes, which are located in the nucleus, are replaced with the nucleus from the somatic cell of the organism being cloned. After fusing with the new chromosomes, the egg cell is stimulated with an electric shock and continues to divide. If successful, it will grow into an embryo that will be inserted into the uterus of the mammal.
Process of somatic cell transfer
Dolly the Sheep
The first successful mammal to be cloned through the process of somatic cell transfer was Dolly the sheep by Scottish researchers in 1996. Her successful birth was a major breakthrough that showed the technology’s possibilities to help further advance medical research. Sadly, Dolly was put down at the age of six, on February 14, 2003, due to a growing tumor found in her lungs.
Ethical issues surrounding cloning
While cloning can bring about immeasurable benefits such as the cloning of stem cells (cells with the potential to develop into many different types of cells in the body, that can serve as a repair system for the body) or bring back the populations of endangered or potentially even extinct animals, it faces many ethical concerns. One of these being the immoral practice of cloning human beings. Because this technology is relatively new, the chance of there being medical altercations to cloned organisms is high. In addition, many families may want to have cloned children in order to replace a loved one who may have passed. However, this expectation on cloned human beings to be a replacement for the loved ones could cause trauma and psychological damage, making it an unethical practice.
Cloning extinct species
Technically, using cloning to bring back extinct species is possible, as long as scientists are able to obtain a cell that is well preserved. They would extract the nucleus from the preserved cell and insert it into the egg cell of the animal’s closest living relative and implant it into the surrogate host. Unfortunately, this approach is only possible to clone recently extinct animals that have obtainable and well-preserved cells, meaning that the prospect of cloning a dinosaur or a wooly mammoth is little to none with our current technology.